Pineapple Upside-Down Cake:
A Classic Dessert With a Twist
If you’re looking for a classic dessert that’s both easy to make and delicious, look no further than the pineapple upside-down cake. This beloved cake has been a favourite in American households since the early 1900s, and for a good reason. Its combination of sweet, caramelized pineapple and buttery cake is simply irresistible.
Today, the cake remains a popular dessert, and it’s easy to see why. The cake’s caramelized brown sugar and buttery flavour perfectly complement the acidic taste of the pineapple, while the texture of the cake itself is soft and moist. Let’s bite piece by piece to learn more about this tasty dessert.
Old-fashioned version (AllRecipes)
What Is a Pineapple Upside-Down Cake?
This cake is dense, like a sour cream pound cake, with ground almonds in the flour to give it even more substance and a slight almond flavour. The cake’s distinctive presentation, with the pineapple and cherries arranged in a decorative pattern on top of the cake, made it a popular choice for special occasions and celebrations. The simplicity of making this cake was a great accelerator to the adoption of its recipe as a common bake-at-home cake. The origins of the cake are somewhat mysterious, but it’s believed to have become popular in the United States in the early 1900s (Read on, and you will get more details).
Pineapple upside-down cake (BBC)
Varieties of This Cake
This fruity dessert has evolved over time. Here are some of the varieties of pineapple upside-down cake that you can try:
The classic cake version (Baker by Nature)
This is the original version of the cake, made with canned pineapple slices arranged on the bottom of the pan and topped with a mixture of butter and brown sugar. The cake batter is then poured over the top and baked until golden brown. This classic version is still a crowd-pleaser and is perfect for any occasion.
The Rum cake version (Dash of Jazz)
Pineapple Upside-Down Cake With Rum:
For an adult twist on the classic cake, you can add a splash of rum to the butter and brown sugar mixture that is poured over the pineapple slices. This cake is usually made during marriages. The rum adds a subtle yet distinct flavour that compliments the sweetness of the pineapple and the cake.
The coconut version (Tatyana’s Everyday Food)
The coconut adds a chewy texture and pairs well with the pineapple’s natural sweetness. Adding shredded coconut to the cake batter and topping adds a tropical twist to the classic recipe.
The caramelized pineapple cake version (Italian Spoon)
Caramel lovers will appreciate this twist on the classic cake. Instead of using brown sugar in the topping, caramel is made by cooking sugar until it turns amber in colour and then pouring it over the pineapple slices before adding the cake batter.
Pineapple upside-down cheesecake (Tastemade)
Cream Cheese Version:
Cream cheese adds richness and a tangy flavour to the cake. A layer of cream cheese is spread over the pineapple slices before adding the cake batter. The cream cheese melts during baking, adding a layer of gooey deliciousness to the cheesecake.
History of the Pineapple Upside-Down Cake
The origins of upside-down pineapple cake go back hundreds of years, when people cooked cakes in cast iron skillets over an open flame. If you liked sweet treats, you could put fruit at the bottom of the pot and pour the batter on top. After baking, flip the baking sheet over and find a beautiful layout of caramelized fruit. One famous example of an upside-down cake with fruits is the French apple upside-down cake, called “tarte tatin”.
Spider skillet with legs and lid (1700-1800) (New York Historical Society)
Early Americans used cast-iron pans with legs on the bottom to cook these cakes. The skillet was called a “spider”, hence the name “spider cake.” As technology progressed and home ovens became a kitchen staple, the new way to bake cakes shifted to flat-bottomed cast-iron skillets (like the ones we have today).
But since pineapple was a tropical fruit that could not easily be transported between continents and preserved at homes, a series of events had to occur for the pineapple upside-down cake to become a popular dessert around the globe.
Andy Warhol’s “Campbell’s Soup Cans,” 1962
- In 1795, the French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte offered a reward to anyone who found how to preserve food for his army’s consumption safely. Nicholas Appert rose to the challenge and invented a method that involved heat-processing food in glass jars and then sealing them with wax.
- Around the same time, an Englishman named Peter Durand developed a method of putting food into tin cans. By the beginning of the 20th century, commercial canned goods were being made around the world; however, it wasn’t regularly consumed in average households. In fact, it was primarily used for luxury products like oysters.
- World War I marked a turning point. On the front lines, the trenches were too small and cramped to allow for canteens and kitchens. To keep the huge number of soldiers fed, something had to change. War efforts needed massive amounts of easy, filling, cheap, and transportable food. In response, canning companies expanded. They started making canned beef, vegetables, and more to feed soldiers. Now full meals came in cans, not just luxury products.
- When the war ended in 1918, these companies still had the facilities to continue making good quality, inexpensive canned food. On top of that, soldiers who returned home had spent years developing a taste for the stuff. Thus, thanks to World War I and trench warfare, canned food became a household staple.
- Meanwhile, sometime after 1903, James Dole (founder of the Hawaiian Pineapple Company, now known as Dole Pineapple Company) devised the perfect way to preserve pineapples, which hadn’t been done before. Thus, pineapple found its way into more and more American homes.
- The Dole Pineapple Company held a pineapple recipe contest in 1925, with a judging panel consisting of members of Fannie Farmer’s School, Good Housekeeping, and McCall’s magazine. The 100 winning recipes would be published in a cookbook the following year.
- Over 60,000 recipes were sent in, and 2,500 of them were for Pineapple Upside-Down Cake! This means that in about 20 years, between 1903 (when canned pineapple was first available) and 1925 (when the contest was held), it had become a cultural phenomenon.
- The Hawaiian Pineapple Company ran an ad campaign in 1926 based on the fact that so many recipes for the cake had been submitted, making it even more popular.
Housewarming Pineapple at Dunmore House in Scotland (Atlas Obscura)
Pineapple and Its Various Symbolism
Pineapple is an exotic fruit, and this means that it carries various symbols around the world. Let’s explore a few of them:
Symbol of luxury and status
During the early days when pineapples were introduced to European society, they were regarded as a symbol of prestige. Due to the inability to cultivate in European climates, pineapples were a luxury item that only the wealthy could afford, often used as decorative elements at fancy dinner parties, serving as a status symbol for the host and showcasing their wealth.
Symbol of friendship and hospitality
After the availability of pineapples, they became the symbol of hospitality and gracious hosting. Pineapples, therefore, served as a warm and welcoming sign for guests and a gesture of friendship, inviting others to engage in friendly conversations.
Symbol of wealth & good fortune
In Chinese and most Asian cultures, the pineapple is considered a symbol of prosperity, fortune, and wealth. According to certain Chinese beliefs, the spikes on the pineapple are thought to resemble eyes that can foresee the future and thus bring good luck to those who possess them.
Symbol of Hawaii
Despite not being native to Hawaii, pineapples are often associated with Hawaiian culture due to their widespread cultivation and integration into the lifestyle and cuisine of the Hawaiian people.
If you’re longing for a sweet delight, then the Pineapple Upside-Down Cake is for you. It is packed with sweet pineapple flavour, and further intensified by caramelized butter and brown sugar. If you love the texture but want to experiment with different varieties, there are many options out there.